Thinking back about the SDP & the parallels with the TIG

My good friend and fellow blogger Phil Holden has recently been pondering on the issue of the new Independent Group in the HofC and in doing so reflecting on the rise and fall of the SDP. His posting is accessible via this link:-

phlhldn.blogspot.com/2019/02/so-chuka-chucked-it-in-for-what.html

One particular part of Phil’s posting stood out for me and it is this:-

‘The SDP foundered in part on whether it should be a party of the left, taking on Labour in a fight to the death, as David Owen wanted, or a centre-party that cosied up to the Liberals, as Roy Jenkins wanted. Jenkins of course won that one.’

As someone who had only joined the old Liberal Party on New Years Day 1980* I was very new to politics when the SDP came along soon after and then I was swept along in the tide that was the famous Crosby by-election**. Heady days indeed but my perspective is just a little different to Phil’s.

Firstly, I think it is fair to say that we Liberals looked upon David Own as a stubborn difficult person with rather right-wing views (who seemed obsessed with NATO for some odd reason) but that the other 3 of the Gang of 4 were to the left of him and far more in tune with Liberal values. Liberals have always been at their best when they espouse radical and left of centre views. Attempts to look moderate or centrist will always fail in my book.

So I saw Owen, Rodgers, Williams and Jenkins from the other end of the telescope to Phil, indeed in my view Owen was probably a big factor in the failure of the SDP along with our appallingly warped electoral system of course. We Libs often referred to Owen as ‘Dr Death’, probably because we feared he would kill us off along with the SDP. In truth he nearly did but we survived and prospered until we tried to commit ritual suicide in the Clegg era on a worryingly moderate platform with one infamous and devastating political U-turn – Tuition Fees.

That there was no love lost between the Liberals and Owen to me is a given and it will be interesting to see whether anyone from the IG starts to fill Owen’s boots again – I hope they don’t but fear they might. And I say that because in my experience many in the Labour Party hold views that are well to the right of us Liberals.

And just to be nostalgic, my abiding memory of the Crosby By-election was a public meeting in Deyes High School, organised by the SDP/Liberal Alliance. It was packed out and standing room only. Obviously, Shirley was there as the soon to be winning candidate, along with Roy Jenkins and Joe Grimond the former Liberal leader who had saved his party from the political wilderness in the 1960s. Being in the same hall as these 3 was wonderful to a fresh-faced political lad like me. Ah memories……

And talking of SDP/Liberal Alliance memories, whilst I’m at it, here’s another story told to me by my very good friend Roy Connell. One day during the heady days of the Alliance he was asked in to drive Roy Jenkins and BBC reporter Kate Adie on an open-top tour of parts of Liverpool. It seems that at one point he had to pull up sharply and Jenkins and Adie were thrown around a bit. Roy can still hear ringing in his ears the words ‘steady driver’ from Jenkins.

* I had read the 3 main party manifestos for the 1979 General Election and concluded I was a Liberal.

** I lived (and still do) in that constituency (now named Sefton Central) and got to know Shirley Williams well. She is indeed a lovely person and the fact that she became a life-long friend of Anthony Hill the already selected Liberal candidate for the seat (who stepped down for her to be the Alliance candidate) says a lot about how well the SDP and Liberals got on in our part of the world back in the early 1980s and indeed many of my friends in the present Lib Dem Party are former SDP activists.

Care costs – Postcode lottery shames officials trying to block state funding

The Daily Telegraph has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/02/27/vulnerable-pensioners-dementia-facing-crippling-care-bills-following/

Extract from the article – ‘Vulnerable pensioners with dementia and Parkinson’s are facing crippling care bills following attempts by health officials to restrict the numbers receiving NHS funding.

Under national rules, any patient with a significant health problem should have their care and nursing fees paid in full – if the condition is deemed to be the main reason they need such help.

But an investigation by The Telegraph reveals that authorities are increasingly refusing to fund care, claiming that devastating diseases are not severe, or not the primary reason help is needed – leaving families facing bills of up to £100,000 a year.’

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this most worrying of health/NHS postcode lotteries.

Council Tax – How many more political mouths will want feeding on Merseyside?

I recently raised the issue of our Metro Mayor wanting you to dig deeper into your pockets to pay for his staff, wages and office running costs but of course we also have a Police and Crime Commissioner too and guess what they want you to dig deeper as well! Here’s a link to my post regarding the Metro Mayor’s grab for your pocket:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/01/20/metro-mayor-tax-another-call-on-your-pocket/

As for the Police and Crime Commissioner here’s what they are demanding in the next Council tax year beginning April 2019:-

My point is that I am very far from convinced that we need a Police and Crime Commissioner and the jury is certainly out over the Metro Mayor post because the 3rd rate devolved powers to the Merseyside Mayor make it hard to justify the cost of having one.

Bizarrely, both posts are the creation of the Conservatives who used to claim they wanted to keep the rates/Council tax down!

Whilst I was never a member of if it, in my time as a Borough Councillor or Council leader, my impression was that the former Police Committee made up of councillors from across Merseyside worked well and it was one of those things that was not broken and did not need fixing. But the Tories knew best and had been taken in by the American way of running Council areas with elected Mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners. Why they didn’t go the whole hog and call the P&CC’s Police Chiefs and give them a fancy uniform I don’t know.

But hey you get the grand positions and then surprise, surprise they want paying, they want to hire staff and they need premises to operate from. Seems the Tories have simply added folks to the public payroll and frankly what do we have to show for our generous ‘donations’ to either cause?

And before you ask, no I’m not saying that we all don’t have to chip in to run local services, it’s just that I don’t believe adding more glorified posts to the local payroll is the way to do it.

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting

Click on the chart above to enlarge it

Sefton Council – will it be buying more shopping centers in the Borough?

Bootle New Strand shopping centre

In what can only be seen as a surprise move last year Sefton Council splashed out over £30m of public money to buy The Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle, a move that shocked many in these times of austerity for local authorities.

But it seems that buying shopping centres is quite the fashion for local councils these days as the article below details from the BBC website:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46625912

I’m the first to say that I’m highly sceptical of such moves by cash-strapped councils – it’s a massive gamble that could go horribly wrong. I had not realised that Wigan Council had purchased The Galleries but having walked around it’s all but deserted upper floor before Christmas you really do wonder what that council can do to bring back the lost retail outlets.

Of course, Sefton Council’s previous big move into retail property development was to take on the rebuild and running of Southport Indoor Market a few years back. This was another hugely controversial investment which I and others on the Council at the time opposed.

But as Sefton and indeed other councils are now firmly into retail property development will this mean other shopping centres locally will be snapped up at lowish prices using borrowed public money? Makes you wonder, especially when private sector owners seem to struggle to find the resources to upgrade down at heel shopping centres such as Maghull Square.

I’m not advocating that Sefton buys up more retail property, because I think it has too much risk attached to it, but if the Council’s Labour rulers really do think that acquiring shopping centres is the next big thing for municipal socialism why stop at Southport Market and Bootle Strand?

Thanks to both Roy Connell and Keith Page for the leads to this posting

Brexit – Where to now for self-destructive Tories?

I like to see sober analysis of important political events rather than hear the views of the biased waring factions involved. Below (with thanks to Roy Connell) is a link to an article by Gaby Hinsliff from The Guardian website which is well worth reading:-

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/13/jacob-rees-mogg-split-tory-party-brexit

That Brexit has always been about irreconcilable differences within the Tory Party is a given and no matter which way any Tory leadership goes the result is the same – more EU splits more internal trouble.

Now don’t get me wrong, as a politician of the left seeing the Tories in deep trouble is in many ways pleasing. However, we are all now deep in the utter Brexit chaos of their making and the infection, for want of a better word, has taken root within the Official Opposition as well!

Our economy is on the slide, jobs are at risk, our position as a trading nation is at best very worrying, hard-won employment rights may be quickly lost, environmental protections watered down etc. etc. The Tories internal war is infecting every part of our society and our economy.

And where now for the Tories? Goodness knows for the party of shambles and chaos

Ambulances – What on earth makes people attack them?

This posting picks up on a most bizarre and appalling trend in vandalism – attacking/vandalising ambulances of all things!

The vast majority of folks will look upon an attack on an ambulance, or indeed ambulance staff, with utter disbelief yet such attacks are happening and far too often. The link below to the BBC website illustrates the problem:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-46511576

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting